If you're gonna challenge yourself to a half Ironman best to do it in an amazing town for adventures. Chattanooga provides a beautiful backdrop to distract from the pain and suffering, while also providing more amazing volunteers than I've seen at any other race in any other city. The rolling bike course is pretty fast with only one real gear grinder, and while the run course is pretty hilly there's plenty of fun aid stations and pretty sections along the river and over bridges.
-Check in: Just follow the arrows through the multi step process and the whole process goes smoothly. No lines and I was in and out in 5 minutes.
-You have to check your bike in the night before the race so no need to worry about it in the morning. One less thing to lug around on early race morning
-Expo has plenty of local vendors but I didn't spend much time walking around - again lots of friendly, helpful people
-Swag: really nice shirt, and sling bag with some extra goodies and coupons. After the race you get a nice medal, of course, and a hat.
-Race morning: lots of volunteers so you don't have to wait for body marking. Head into transition and set up your area. There are volunteers walking around who can help you if you're not sure how to set up. Dozens of school buses waiting at transition to take participants to the swim start so you don't have to wait.
-Swim start: first come, first served. After the pros, everyone else just lines up. No crazy mass starts. The whole process moves very fast.
-Swim: river swim under 3 cool bridges. It's nice seeing downtown from the river and, for the most part, people spread out so you're not getting kicked in the head too much.
-Wetsuit strippers: I didn't wear a wetsuit this year but the strippers are really helpful for getting that thing off.
-Bike course: BEAUTIFUL. I could have stayed on my bike all day I think riding around that countryside. I will say, the pack never really thins out much so people do end up drafting a bit, even though most people are not doing it on purpose. There's not a lot of course marshals regulating this behavior but, honestly, I don't think there's much anyone could do anyway.
-Run: I'm used to running the terrain in Chatt but I know this is a difficult course for many. The bike course gets 3 star difficulty but the run pushes it to 4. It's a 2 loop course so all the hills you see the first time, you'll get to see them again. The aid stations on the run course are the best. There's some school groups and church groups mostly and they all have different fun themes. I particularly liked the aid Hawaiian themed aid station. Each station has water, Gatorade, ice cups, oranges/chips/pretzels/gels, coke, first aid/vasoline, port-o-johns, and they're all within 1 - 1.5 miles each. You can definitely do the run without carrying hydration.
Cons: I wasn't a fan of the finish area this year or last. The food offered is dominoes pizza (yuck) with some chips, pretzels and diverse drink options. I just wish they had something else besides greasy food. After a race my stomach is already pretty messed up so eating crappy pizza isn't really the best plan imho. However, Chattanooga has no shortage of great food and drink options right near the race area in downtown.